IoT technology is improving eye surgeons’ workflow

A smarter, more connected experience is making surgical flows smoother and simpler

By | 3 minute read | June 6, 2019

Photo by Motah on Unsplash

“I’m a paid daydreamer,” Ron Cummings-Kralik said. “I work to figure out what would be helpful, and how to make doctors’ lives better.”

As a Principal Network Engineer and IoT Architect in the Surgical business unit of Bausch + Lomb, Cummings-Kralik and his team set out to create a smarter and more connected experience for doctors who perform eye surgery, such as cataract surgery.

Ophthalmologists conduct nearly four million cataract surgeries in the US annually; worldwide, that number is around 20 million.

Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens becomes clouded—often due to various factors, including age and medical conditions like myopia, diabetes and hypertension.

During the procedure, ophthalmologists remove the natural lens of an eye and replace it with an artificial lens. It is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the world. It’s also fast and has success rates of ~98%.

Eye surgeons face a unique set of challenges and pressures. Since eyes are such delicate organs, the surgery requires extreme precision. That is the case for cataract surgery, as well as other eye surgeries, including emergency procedures, when a doctor is called upon to help prevent a patient’s permanent vision loss. And, like all doctors in the US today, ophthalmologists under continuous pressure to improve their workflows, increase their efficiency and cut costs. The performance of the equipment they use is another critical factor.

“My team and I sat down to figure out what we could do to make the surgical flow smoother and simpler,” Cummings-Kralik said.

In order to achieve this goal, Bausch + Lomb partnered with IBM to develop the eyeTELLIGENCE platform, which the company launched in October 2018. This cloud-based solution is exclusively available on Bausch + Lomb’s surgical platform for cataract and retina surgery, the Stellaris Elite™ vision enhancement system.

The IBM partnership and development of eyeTELLIGENCE is part of the company’s overall vision, which is to provide ophthalmologists a more connected surgical experience.

“We’re digitally transforming surgery to provide the best and most efficient experience for the doctor,” he said.

For eye surgeons and their staff, the eyeTELLIGENCE platform provides first-in-class efficiency solutions: expedited technical support, and the ability to synchronize their preferred surgical settings across the system.

Both are game changers, according to Cummings-Kralik.

To access technical support in the past, surgeons or their staff had to contact sales or Bausch + Lomb representatives, who would then need to physically visit the office to address the issue. Now with the eyeTELLIGENCE platform, medical staff have a direct connection with Bausch + Lomb, which allows them to make service requests or report technical issues with the click of a button. Once the appropriate selection is made in the system, the request is immediately sent via the IBM Cloud to the Bausch + Lomb team.

The eyeTELLIGENCE platform also allows surgeons to log into the system, make adjustments on the settings, and save them. This allows the many doctors who operate on multiple Stellaris Elite machines in different operating rooms or facilities to now have their exact settings saved instantly on all the machines they use.

“The machines are super complicated. There’s 100-odd settings you could adjust,” Cummings-Kralik said.

Previously, surgeons had to sit down with a technician to implement the adjustments on all of their machines. The new system could potentially save each doctor hours a day, according to Cummings-Kralik.

The Stellaris Elite System

As of May 2019, nearly 200 Stellaris Elite machines are connected to the IBM Cloud through the eyeTELLIGENCE platform. These connected machines are allowing the Bausch + Lomb team to gather information that is helping them better understand the machine’s performance, and help surgeons improve their efficiency. This May during the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery in San Diego, researchers presented a paper, which demonstrated that they were able to find a trend in energy and fluid usage patterns, leading them to make adjustments that helped improve their surgical efficiency.

Bausch + Lomb is continuing to work with IBM to develop additional features for the platform that will deliver valuable feedback to surgical facilities while also providing a platform for surgical procedure planning.

“Together we’re reinventing the way that surgery will work for people,” Cummings-Kralik said.